Song and Story: What Makes this Union Perfect

One of the best things about music is that there are so many genres, sub-genres, and artists to listen to. Whichever genres and artists you like, certain songs stick in your head and become favorites for many different reasons.

One reason a song can become a favorite is, the song tells a story. This concept goes all the way back to ancient ballads of nations like Ireland and Scotland, the Psalms of David, the oral traditions of Africa and Native America, etc. Since those ancient times, story-songs have developed into genre-specific phenomena. You can find a lot of them in country music, and Broadway musicals are built on them. Many religious songs, from hymns and spirituals to praise tunes, are taken directly from verses and stories found in holy books.

Examine the similarities and differences found in specific types and genres of story-songs. How do they work (how does a Broadway show tune tell a different story than, say, a country hit)? What does a song need in order to tell a good story–and conversely, what types of stories work best set to music? What are some of the best current and classic examples of the union between song and story?

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